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    Those are some pretty big assumptions. IF there are Internet cafes they can afford and IF they can get translation software and IF giant companies come and take an interest in them.

    I definitely see the educational possibility - access to knowledge and communities around the world. I don't see the job opportunities for poor. Not yet. I think there's a lot of infrastructure growth, both on Africa's end and with companies who want to hire these folks, before this will be an affordable alternative to countries already with the infrastructure who already do it on the cheap - like India and China.

    Virtual worlds are a cost-saving measure, indeed, for fully industrialized countries - where people already buy plane tickets to meet, have big conventions in real spaces, already have computers and high-speed internet.

    Hiro --

    For an example of how this could work, check out rural China. The Internet cafes are present everywhere. They are the new bars, clubs and social centers. Young guys hang out here, smoking. They play video games, they watch movies, they send email messages and IMs. In doing so, they learn how to use the technology, communicate with their peers in other cities (say, to find out where the jobs are), and for learning. I personally know young Chinese guys who practiced their English by playing role playing games or watching Friends.

    The next step beyond that is gold mining. This is the lowest-level entry job for a young unemployed guy with basic gaming skills. As the gaming industry continues to grow, these jobs -- while menial and unfilling for those in developed countries -- are great for the youths with the lowest level of educations.
    They learn to work in virtual teams, in distributed work forces. Some are promoted to management, and learn how to manage these virtual teams.

    China's domestic gaming market is now at $378 million after just ten years of existence.


    The majority of this is due to locally-developed games (putting to rest the myth that the Chinese are not creative!). The online gaming world gives young guys a clear and visible and fun career path -- learn English, learn basic programming skills, get a low-level job with a gaming company, and work your way up to where you're designing your own games.

    Contrast this to the blue collar career path: get a factory job, die young from an on-the job accident, and, if you live long enough, get promoted to floor manager.

    In fact, these kids are skipping over the blue-collar generation altogether, going straight from farming to technology work.

    But it's more than that. Having access to the Internet isn't just about language learning opportunities that might not be available locally. There are also free online tutorials in pretty much any technical area. MIT puts its lectures and textbooks online, as do some other universities, for free.

    The Internet Cafe is a path for anyone to pull himself (or herself -- but when I've visited these cafes it was mostly guys) up by his bootstraps.

    -- Maria Korolov
    Editor, Hypergrid Business

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